The October 2015 issue of Science had an interesting article of how the brain learns to see. Historically, it was assumed that restoring sight in a teen who had been born blind since birth would be unsuccessful. Recent studies have now shown that experience isn’t critical for certain visual functions. It appears that the brain is “prewired to interpret at least some simple aspects of the visual world.” This continues the observations that “even adult brains can change in structure and function. It is important to note, however, that restored vision does not reach the same levels of functioning as someone who has had vision since birth. It is suggested that the age of 8 is the threshold level for developing normal acuity. The utilization of fMRI’s are beginning to show the changes in the brain before and after cataract surgery.
How can we apply this information to help our students? Testing the visual component is part of the evaluations performed at Mesilla Valley Education Enhancement Center. We use the Visagraph goggles after fatiguing the eyes (simulating visual work in the classroom). Any abnormalities that are suggested initiate a referral to a behavioral optometrist to check for astigmatism, eye-tracking issues, vertical imbalances as well as difficulties in accommodation and acuity. A traditional eye exam does not check for all of these areas.